Look for the spinnaker with a gigantic meatball with a fork and noodles hanging off of it. That’s Al Minella’s J/88 Albondigas.
More on those meatballs later.
Justin Scagnelli, from New York, is Minella’s boat manager and it was he who built and now manages the crew for the Long Island-based program. The skipper, from Milwaukee, is a busy fella and prefers to show up to regattas with a race-ready crew and raceboat, and that’s all on Scagnelli, who was the one who suggested Minella buy a J/88 in the first place.
“When Iris [Vogel, skipper of the J/88 Deviation] got her boat I thought it was really cool,” says Scagnelli. “I got a chance to drive her boat in one regatta, won a few races and fell in love with the boat. When Al was looking for a new boat, I said we’ve got to get a J/88.”
It’s the perfect boat, he says, because “it can be trailered everywhere, the crew is small and the sails are small so it’s more affordable. It’s a great boat that sails well in light air and very well in heavy air.”
In 17 knots of breeze the J/88 will plane, he says, and in most breeze it “gets up and going pretty quick.”
The J/88 class is a gregarious group because setup from trailer to water is straight forward – no more than two hours, says Scagnelli, and the upfront investment required to get into the class is reasonable for a boat its size. The sail plan is smaller than that of the J/111, so sail costs are less, and in terms of crew, he says, a solid trimmer and driver are a must: “The bow team needs to know what they’re doing because the racing is always close and mistakes are costly.”
The J/88’s deck-stepped rig is straightforward, but requires strict attention when racing in changeable conditions. For Scagnelli, the past few years have been an exercise in learning, experimenting, and changing sail designs and rig tune. “It’s been a lot of trial and error over the last year,” he says. “We were very slow for a while, but now we know what we have to do with the rig. A lot of these races are won or lost on rig tune.”
Given the competitiveness of the class on the water, one might expect more guarded notebooks and tuning guides when it comes to boatspeed and rig setup, but that’s not the case at all with the J/88, says Scagnelli. “Everyone is super friendly and helps each other out. It’s a great class that has a lot of fun.” The class has pockets on Long Island Sound, the West Coast, Chicago, and Milwaukee, and while they’re spread out, they do travel plenty.
And here’s Scagnelli’s own tips: “Upwind, you have to get it going in the groove and carry that speed, you really have to scallop the boat by feathering it up. The boat responds and holds speed well. The same thing with downwind; you can soak as much as you can, but once you feel the boat slowing down you have to get it back up to speed.”
Weight placement is huge, too, he adds. “We are the heaviest boat – because we eat a lot of meatballs,” so where you put your weight makes a huge difference.”